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Interviews With The Enemy: Corn Nation Staff

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It is rare that an entire staff does one of these, but Corn Nation is awesome.

Eric Francis

One of the reasons that Nebraska was such a great addition to the Big Ten is that their bloggers fit right in with our culture. In one of the best ever Q&As with an opponent blog several members of the Corn Nation staff chime in with their opinions on Saturday:

T-Mill: Fear Ameer? How does terrified sound? Purdue has already faced Thomas Rawls, Jarvion Franklin, and David Cobb as three of the top nine rushers in the country. Now they get Ameer before Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman make it six of nine. Now is the time to say he is too worn out for a big day.

Jon Johnston: You probably don't know that one of Ameer's nicknames is "Energizer Bunny". I'm sorry to have to inform you of that. Abdullah has had four 200-yard games so far this season. This weekend it should be five, so, no, he's not worn out. He's just heating up for November.

Ranchbabe: Bo Pelini got a hold of a bunch of geeks this offseason and they analyzed the playbook, practice efficiency, etc. The result? Unsuccessful plays were ripped out and tracking devices show players are running less miles in practice with the same reps. The yards Ameer's not getting in practice seem to be coming in the games. Abdullah is a man on a mission and I feel grateful to watch him play. Short version--the new system was designed to help players feel fresher for the stretch run. Terrified is nice, but it doesn't rhyme. We'll stick with #fearameer.

Andy: Many people don't know that he fights crime in his spare time as a masked crusader named, well, "Ameer". There's a big "A" on the mask and he introduces himself using his actual name to the scalawags he brings to justice because not to do so would be rude.

Brian: Thing about Ameer is that he got to 1800 yards last year with a OL that couldn't run block to save their lives last year. There's a little bit of angst right now with the OL because some of the 2's are outperforming the 1's and some thought is that it'll come with the cost of Ameer not being able to get yards, get TD's and get to New York for a Heisman.

T-Mill: Last season Randy Gregory seemed to take it personally that he switched from Purdue to Nebraska after recruiting. Purdue has kept Austin Appleby relatively clean since he got the starting job, but is Gregory too much?

David: You saw Rutgers triple team him on Saturday. But that just opened things up for Maliek Collins and Kevin Williams. The problem isn't Gregory, it's that there are other very talented guys on that line. If you pay too much (justified) attention to RG, you'll have a tough time holding the rest of the group at bay.

Jon: You probably don't know that "energizer bunny" is one of Randy Gregory's nicknames. I'm just kidding! It's not, at least that I know of. David has it correct. The moment you focus too much on Gregory, that Collins fella gonna squash you like a bug.

Ranchbabe:  I honestly don't know much about Purdue's o-line, but I know the entire Husker d-line is capable of wreaking havoc and some of our reserves are rounding into shape. Focus on Gregory only at your own peril. Using motion and misdirection and quick (VERY QUICK) short passes to attack our linebackers and neutralize the Husker d-line will be your best bet. However, even in those situations, I've watched Gregory chase down plays across the field, downfield....he has great instincts, amazing closing speed, and a mean streak. He hasn't even come close to his full potential.

Andy: Another talent for which he is displaying All-American ability is his mouth. I mean, he is taking trash talk to another level this year. When Miami was in town, they tried to do Miami things, but Randy just drove them absolutely berserk. Of course, as Nebraska fans, we find this sort of thing extremely distasteful. (giggling)

Brian: I don't get the whole "standing Randy up on 3rd down" bit, but Greg McMullen and Maliek Collins will be an issue to your D if you're just worried about Gregory. The OL used to be a running joke up to even 2 years ago, but the Nebraska coaching staff has put a big injection of new coaching and talent up there, and the results are starting to show.

T-Mill:  Your offense is definitely more than Ameer, as Tommy Armstrong is definitely a threat. Did you see much of how the Leidner-Cobb read option worked for Minnesota and should we expect something similar?

David: I totally misread this question the first time and wrote a really confusing response that made sense to me. I'll try again. Hopefully nobody saw it...

Anyway, yeah, if you had trouble stopping it vs. Minnesota, I'd anticipate you'll have trouble stopping it vs. Nebraska. The thing is, the Huskers are a lot more diverse in how they can attack you. They've got skill players on the edges and can be explosive down the field. If you fall asleep, they will occasionally use the tight end down the seam. Despite having talented tight ends, they refuse to use them. So, the run game and the receivers, they'll kill ya if you're not disciplined. And they might even if you are.

Jon: I did watch parts of that game, and yes you can expect plenty of that coming at you Saturday. Armstrong has been steadily improving at his run game, and he fakes those very well. It's a matter of him making the right reads.

Ranchbabe: Did someone say option? (All of Husker nation turns their heads expectantly...). Oh, read option? Tommy is still very good at that. He generally makes good reads and he is a load to bring down if he keeps the ball. You didn't mention the wideouts...Tommy is great at getting his wideouts onto SportsCenter (see Bell here and Westerkamp here). Tight ends? Shhhh, they are our best kept secret--not even our OC knows we have them. If Abdullah needs a breather, we have human battering ram Imani Cross and Ameer-lite in Terrell Newby. The x-factor seems to be the o-line. When they are on, records fall. When they aren't....well you get classic gifs.

Brian: Tommy can run if he really needs to, but we would rather him get the ball out to Bell and Westerkamp. That being said, he only seems to throw it well to... Bell and Westerkamp. He's a game manager right now, and that's not a bad thing. He has a money 9 route arm and can do screens well, but his weakness is the 5-15 yard passing game it seems. Every ball is too hard, or too high/low, or something.

T-Mill:  I have heard you mention the secondary as a Cornhusker weakness. Do you see Appleby making some noise against it?

David: Everybody else has, it seems like, I don't know why Purdue would be any different. I don't think they'll be able to make a living doing it, though. You could see a couple busts lead to big plays, but I don't expect NU to let that happen often.

Jon: Hmmmmm.. we're good for a couple busted plays every game it seems, and we typically give up a touchdown on our opponent's first drive, but other than that I think the secondary has played pretty well. We still aren't completely settled at middle linebacker, so there's that.

Ranchbabe: The Husker secondary is #1 in the conference in pass efficiency defense and are only allowing 48% completion rate. They might allow yards, but they make you work for your points. Underestimate them if you wish, but it wouldn't be a great idea. We might not have Amukamara, Dennard, Gomes, Washington et al. patrolling the secondary any more, but this is a young group that is improving with every rep. If you want us to point out a weakness in the defense, it is the linebackers. They are good, but not great. We have guys that are either really athletic, but haven't quite put the mental game together or guys that understand the game, but don't have the physical tools to get the play.

Andy: Pretty much everything that's been said above, but I would give you one guy to watch: Nate Gerry. The kid is an absolute beast and is starting to turn into something pretty special. He played LB last year as a true frosh to help a thin spot, but  he is now back at his natural  safety position. He goes about 210 and as a high school senior in South Dakota, he ran the 7th fastest 100m in the country. He has 3 picks and has consistently been the1st or 2nd leading tackler on the team.

Brian: Linebackers are the weakness, but Corey Cooper has not had a great season so far. Leonte Carroo's long TD last week for Rutgers came from 1) a bunch of DB's going after Gary Nova and not staying in coverage, and 2) Cooper taking a angle on a tackle that would make Lombardi himself detonate. Nate Gerry is very serviceable in both pass coverage and rolling down into the box, but Cooper is the guy that seems to stay high in a Cover 1 if Gerry rolls down. LB wise, there have been some hits and misses, Trevor Roach has been the better bunch but he'll be sat in a nanosecond if playing bad (and he has). Josh Banderas has replaced him, and David Santos is the most experienced of the bunch but probably still not 100% going into this game.

T-Mill: Purdue's running game is vastly improved and has done extremely well last two weeks. Can it generate enough to keep Ameer safely on the sidelines?

Jon: Not by itself. You guys have been putting up the points lately, but if you score the points are going to come by mixing it up. I like Akeem Hunt, but if he's going to generate offense it's going to be by catching Nebraska out of position.  Nebraska has been been inconsistent at times this season, and Bo Pelini has a bad habit of losing games he shouldn't.

Ranchbabe: Maybe, but the Husker offense doesn't seem to need much time to score. They don't depend on keeping the ball for 17 plays and 6 minutes of the clock. In addition to your offense chewing clock, you have to hope for turnovers, blown coverages (all possible), and bad playcalling (and OC Tim Beck has been pretty good even though Husker fans like to complain). Score on your first drive (we excel at allowing that), convert turnovers into points and you will be right in the thick of this game.

Brian: The only thing I can see is borrowing the Minnesota/Iowa gameplan last year and using a lot of misdirection. Nebraska's LB's seem to get too used to going playside, so they are out of position a lot. The more the game goes on though, and Nebraska seems to get it out of their system and play better.

T-Mill:  What advice do you have for Purdue fans making the trip since this is our first visit?

Ranchbabe: Wear your Purdue gear proudly. If you are reasonably nice, you will never have to buy a beer your entire visit. I am not kidding. You will be welcomed at every tailgate and if you are knowledgeable about your team (seriously--Husker fans will know more about your team than many of you will) you will be welcomed. We are not the Badgers or COLOLOLOLOLorado fans (don't ask--they are the worst). I'm sure there are fan guides and suggestions for restaurants and bars, but you must try to find Empyrean beer. Don't leave town without it. I especially recommend the Burning Skye Scottish Ale.

Ty: As a Husker who grew up in Boulder, Colorado, I can echo Ranchbabe's sentiments about CU fans.  Awful.  That being said, check out the local craft brew scene.  There are a couple of good ones with taprooms open Friday night.  Blue Blood Brewing being my favorite as they have some unique brews and I'm in there weekly.  However, you owe it to yourself to spend some time in the Railyard.  Very cool bars and a great scene with the big screen.  Be sure to grab a meal at Misty's Steakhouse.  The Havelock location's the original, but all three are great.  Good food, reasonable price.  I will also echo the sentiment about rocking your Purdue gear.  Even Miami fans found Lincoln welcoming.

Andy: If you're into hookers, give them the Crocodile Dundee cup check. One can never be too careful.

Brian: Hit up Misty's in Havelock for sure, but also remember there is a Downtown one that you can frequent after the game Saturday. Also, Lazlo's in the Haymarket is a good microbrew house that has a fantastic menu and garlic dressing that goes on anything, but mostly on fries.

T-Mill: And finally, a prediction?

Ranchbabe: Bo Pelini often expresses dissatisfaction with his team's performance but he rarely issues a bonafide challenge. He did the latter last week even though we beat Rutgers by 18 because of sloppy play and mental errors all around. The last time Bo issued a challenge? The team had to win 6 in a row to make the conference championship game. They did that but got their a***s kicked in the CCG. What does this mean for you? I have no idea, but this team appears to be growing up in front of our eyes. In the past, the Huskers would have overlooked Purdue, but the Boilermaker improvement in recent weeks has their attention. Your own success might work against you. Huskers 35 Astronaut training ground 21

Jon: The popular prediction is that Nebraska will destroy Purdue because Purdon't. I don't think a whole lot of people have been paying attention to how young the team is and the improvements they've made. I fully expect that this will be one of those games where Nebraska gets an early lead, loses focus, then has to fight off a surging Boiler team to win.

Nebraska 42, Purdue 38

Ty: It's as hard to tell with this team as it has been with every other team this year.  So... I don't know.  I'd like to believe that this team is building toward something great cause I tend to believe that, but so is Purdue.  However, Rutgers was having a good season, and we did that to them, SO...  Given the addition of Pelini's challenge, I think it's a pretty handy win for Big Red, 41-17.

Andy: First of all, I'm down with any school that names itself after a hardcore drink. You can have all the train pictures you want, but I know in my heart that Purdue is an institution steeped in alcohol whose founding fathers probably all had ruddy features and vein-busted noses.You chaps know how to deal with the lean years - drop a depth charge in the beer & repeat. Aces in my book, gents.

I'm picking a tight 1st half that has our fans freaking out. Tommy throws his  obligatory pick, maybe two, and Purdue drives well enough to have Papuchis standing there making the open-mouth steamshovel face until Bo fixes things at halftime. NU pulls away but it's interesting for awhile. Huskers 44 Purdue 20

Brian: I think that the leadership realizes that Nebraska can't sleep walk through any game, and that there has never been a better time for a Husker team under Bo Pelini to get what they want in a Big Ten title. Nebraska is in Year 7 of Pelini, and many are restless for a win. A loss this week would be Chernobyl'ish as far as how it goes, but in the end, the Huskers get into their second bye week with a 38-20 win against Purdue. Hope your fans have fun though, that's what matters in the end.